Wildland fire prevention, preparation and response are part of Midpen's ongoing land stewardship. We reduce wildland fire severity and risk in our region by managing vegetation in the preserves with a focus on ecological health and wildland fire resilience, in alignment with our mission and policies.
In 2021, our new Wildland Fire Resiliency Program was approved, allowing us to proactively increase our ecologically sensitive vegetation management approximately six-fold over ten years.
Before new projects begin, biologists and archeologists conduct surveys to identify and protect sensitive plants, animals and cultural sites. Non-native and invasive plants are prioritized for removal over more fire-adapted native plant species.
This fact sheet provides a broad overview of our work to prevent, prepare for and respond to wildland fire. Read below for details.
Goals and Objectives
Beginning in 2021, we're proactively expanding our environmentally sensitive vegetation management six-fold over the next decade with our Wildland Fire Resiliency Program in order to:
- Promote healthy, resilient, fire-adapted ecosystems
- Reduce wildland fire risk
- Facilitate the response of fire agencies
The Wildland Fire Resiliency Program has four main elements:
- Vegetation Management Plan
Expanding environmentally sensitive vegetation management into new areas of our preserves for ecological health and public safety.
- Prescribed Fire Plan
Reintroducing prescribed fire to Midpen’s land management toolbox in 2023, in partnership with Cal Fire. Further environmental analysis is needed.
- Preserve Maps to Assist Fire Agencies (Pre-plan and Resource Advisor maps)
Updated and expanded preserve maps provide critical information to fire agencies responding to wildland fire events, including water sources, roads and gates and sensitive natural and cultural resources.
- Monitoring Plan
Collecting scientific data and monitoring to ensure the program is adaptable and meeting our goals.
As part of Midpen’s ecological approach to vegetation management, we are careful not to impact sensitive plants and wildlife. One way we do this is to avoid work during nesting bird season, which ends September 1.
Beginning January 10, 2022, our partners at Ecological Concerns are creating a new fuel reduction area for ecosystem resiliency and forest health in the Thornewood Open Space Preserve. The work is occuring along the first half-mile of the Schilling Lake Trail, up to approximately 200 feet from trail.
The work is being done with hand tools, and includes the removal of non-native invasive species such as periwinkle and acacia, and thinning of Douglas firs less that 10 inches in diameter and other small trees less than eight inches in diameter.
No parking area, road or trail closures are expected during the work.
The project is supported by a grant from the State Coastal Conservancy.
Midpen preserve parking areas provide important strategic staging areas for fire equipment and personnel in the event of a wildland fire.
Skyline Ridge Preserve: Beginning in October 2021, Midpen staff are removing brush, low tree limbs and non-native invasive plants from around the parking area at this preserve. Additional ongoing work will be performed to continue managing invasive species.
Surveys for sensitive plants and animals have been performed at the project site to identify locations requiring additional protection.
Closures: During the work, some parking spaces may be temporarily closed, however, the Skyline Ridge Preserve lot provides ample parking for visitors.
Other Skyline Area Midpen Preserves: Similar work will occur through winter 2022 in additional preserve parking lots in the Skyline area that can provide important staging areas for fire personnel, including:
- Monte Bello
- Russian Ridge
- El Corte de Madera Creek
El Corte de Madera Creek: Midpen staff have identified an important fuel treatment area for ecosystem resiliency near the Fir and Lawrence Creek trails to support the rare Kings Mountain Manzanita. Crews will be working March 16th - 25th, 2022 to achieve habitat enhancement goals, vegetation management and wildland fire risk reduction in these areas.
Recently Completed Project Highlights
Though wildland fires seldom start in Midpen preserves, our staff work year-round to prevent, prepare for and respond to fire by:
- Maintaining hundreds of miles of fuel breaks and fire roads throughout our preserves, some of which are used as emergency ingress and egress routes for neighbors.
- Annually training Midpen field staff as fire first responders
- Outfitting ranger trucks with water pumpers during fire season
- Reducing vegetation using conservation grazing on more than 6,500 acres on the San Mateo County Coast
- Enforcing regulations against smoking, fires and guns in the preserves
CZU Lightning Complex Fire
In August, 2020, fire-trained Midpen ranger and maintenance staff assisted Cal Fire in holding the north fire line at Old Haul Road, preventing the fire from reaching Midpen preserves and Skyline-area communities and beyond.
The lightning storm that sparked the CZU fire, also ignited four small fires on Midpen land that fire-trained ranger and maintenance staff quickly located and extinguished.
Hear directly from staff about their experience on the CZU fire line in this presentation given at a special public meeting of the Midpen board of directors on October 28, 2020.
Fire is a fact of life in California and everyone plays a role in living safely with it. More than 95% of wildland fires in California are caused by human activities, according to Cal Fire.
Do your part to prevent and prepare for fire by:
- Hardening your home against fire, create defensible space around it and have an evacuation plan
- Signing up for county emergency alerts.
- Recreating safely to prevent fires and so emergency resources are available to respond to fires: stay cool and bring plenty of water, or consider other plans.
- Stay aware of red flag warning weather when fire danger is highest and refraining from activities that could spark fires.
For those who choose to live in the wildland-urban interface, creating defensible space and hardening your home are some of the most important things you can do to protect your property.
Neighbors can apply here for a free permit allowing you to reduce vegetation on Midpen land, within 100 feet of occupied structures, to create defensible space around your home.
- Obtain a free fire hazard inspection from your local fire agency.
- Fill out this online form.
- Midpen staff will schedule a site visit with you to discuss your project and program details.
- The occupied structure should be in compliance with applicable planning, building, and zoning laws.
- Applicants and contractors must have general liability insurance and any required licenses.
- Cost of vegetation removal and any required environmental review are the applicant's responsibility.
Other requirements may be identified in the permit for consistency with Midpen’s resource management policies and practices.
Defensible Space Resources
Check with your local fire department for additional information about defensible space.
Questions? Contact Midpen at 650-691-1200 or email@example.com.
Midpen staff work cooperatively with neighbors, fire agencies and regional fire safe councils on fire prevention and preparedness efforts. The Midpen board of directors has this identified this work as a objective within strategic goal of protecting the positive environmental values of open space land.
Local fire departments (such as Palo Alto, Woodside Fire Protection District, and Santa Clara County), and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) are the agencies in our region that are responsible for fire suppression. Cal Fire’s role is supplemented by statewide mutual aid agreements for large wildland fire events.